Christmas Trees and Currants May Someday
Grow in More States
By Kathryn Barry
December 31, 1998
Gooseberry pie or currant jam may be in your future holiday menus if
researchers are successful. Their goal: develop currant and gooseberry
varieties with resistance to a disease called white pine blister rust.
The rust lives first in white pines and other five-needle pine species, then
moves to currants and their relatives, then back to the pines. It doesn't
bother currants much but can kill some pine trees. White pines are important to
the lumber, landscape and Christmas tree industries. In an attempt to stop the
spread of the disease, the U.S. Department of
Agriculture prohibited commercial production of European cultivated
currants from 1909 to 1966. Restrictions still exist in 15 states.
Now Agricultural Research Service
scientists at the
Clonal Germplasm Repository in Corvallis, Ore., along with researchers in
several states and Canada, are looking for a genetic solution. They've
identified several currant and gooseberry cultivars that resist the disease,
and they're conducting a series of tests to quantify that resistance. They're
also working with foresters who are producing disease-resistant white pine
seedlings for reforestation.
Currants have shiny, translucent berries whose color ranges from black to
deep red to clear. Native to North America and Europe, they are unrelated to
the raisin-like Zante currants, made from grapes. Currants and their
larger-fruited relatives, gooseberries, are popular in jams, juices, pastries
and liqueurs in Europe. They are high in vitamin C and flavonoids, compounds
being investigated for health benefits and nutraceutical properties. Currants
and gooseberries grow best in the northern U.S.
A story about the research appears in the December issue of the agency's
Agricultural Research magazine and on the web at:
ARS is USDA's chief scientific agency.
Scientific contact: Kim Hummer, ARS
Clonal Germplasm Repository, Corvallis, Ore., phone (541) 750-8712, fax
(541) 750-8717, email@example.com.